For more than a decade, Chicagoans have started their holiday shopping à la française with a trip to the Lycée French Market. The market's mix of high quality French goods and foods, enjoyed while listening to the sounds of French music and conversation, is what makes it one of the most unique holiday shopping experiences in Chicago. And, it's what has been successfully captured in the promotional event posters hand drawn and printed in silkscreen by French-American artist Yann Legendre since 2008.
For eight years, Legendre has designed Lycée French Market posters. Born in France, Legendre is an internationally recognized illustrator, designer and art director. His illustrations have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and GQ, among other publications. He regularly creates illustrations for Universal Music in London, the Criterion Collection in New York and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company here in Chicago.
Although the market has grown, and the location has moved to the Lycée Français de Chicago’s new Lincoln Square home, Legendre has played an instrumental role in setting the tone for the holiday shopping event. With each poster, Legendre has never lost sight of the primary audience – the Lycée students who benefit from the proceeds raised by the parent-run market – and his desire to celebrate the French culture through one primary metaphorical image at a time.
From the image of Louis XVI dressed as a chef, standing tall with an oversized fork, to a fashionable French mademoiselle, wearing a hat carefully balancing a wide array of delicacies, Legendre has helped the students – and the Chicago community – appreciate French history, life and food, along with the essence of the holiday market in poster after poster, year after year. And, that holds true for this year’s Lycée French Market – and the 8th poster Legendre has designed for it.
“Since the market’s dates are now in December, we decided to focus on the holiday season rather than the fall season,” said Legendre. “So I imagine this French groom carrying a ton of packets, gift and goodies coming from fancy Parisian stores – and I would like it to make people want to shop at the market after seeing the poster!”
For Legendre, each poster is meaningful to him because he strives to make them as unique as possible. After creating eight posters for the Lycée French Market, the first one continues to be one of the most special pieces for the French artist.
“I have to admit that the first one was an homage to my grandfather who passed away that year,” shared Legendre. “He was a sort of artist on his own by making objects and tools out of things that he collected over time. For instance, he made a special wooden basket to go mushroom hunting in the fall and he always carried a handmade cork opener. That's why both objects are represented in the poster.”
The artist first became involved with the Lycée French Market by a sheer coincidence – which has deemed to be beneficial for Legendre and the school that hosts the annual market.
As luck would have it, Legendre’s neighbor at his first apartment in Chicago was Sylvette Nicolini, a former director of the Lycée Français de Chicago. Their close proximity led to a budding friendship – and conversations about the French tradition of making posters. Nicolini invited Legendre to visit the school, and immediately the French artist noted how art was an integral part of the school.
“In every single classroom I recall seeing some amazing drawings, paintings and collages made by students of all different ages,” recalled Legendre. “I think it was what made me want to be involved with the Lycée. A kind of coup de foudre (love at first sight).”
Today, Legendre's involvement with, and connection to, the Lycée Français de Chicago and the Lycée French Market continues – although he now resides in France.
“When I was living in Chicago, it was important to me to be involved with the Lycée because it was a bit of France in Chicago,” remarked Legendre. “Now that I live in France, the Lycée brings me a bit of Chicago!”
Today, Legendre does the same for so many others as his posters take an honored place at the annual event – and in the homes of people who’ve purchased them at the Lycée French Market throughout the years.
Amanda Love, a Lycée Français de Chicago parent, who with fellow parent Michelle Jonas, played a central role in Legendre’s return to the market this year, has collected many of the artist’s market posters for her two daughters as a memento of their years at the school.
“His style is classically French and his posters have historically set the tone for a high quality French market,” said Love. “Yann says in an illustration what we can’t say in words! He expertly captures what people love about France!”
This year, Chicagoans can enjoy a festive taste of France at the Lycée French Market – as captured by Legendre. If his latest poster is any indication, people should prepare to leave the market with an armful of holiday goods – and the precious memories that accompany the unique French holiday market.
The Lycée French Market takes place at the Lycée Français de Chicago in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood Friday, December 2 through Sunday, December 4, 2016.
This article originally appeared in the Lycee Francaise de Chicago blog on November 4, 2016.